Today's 75th anniversary of the Talmudical Academy is a reminder of the significant role the Orthodox Jewish community plays in Baltimore. If anything, that role is getting more pronounced. Baltimore is said to have the largest percentage of Orthodox Jews of any American city and each year some 150 additional families move in, mostly from New York.
Several reasons explain Baltimore's attraction for these religious families. Houses here are often relative bargains for large, young families. Sabbath observance is easy. So is observance of dietary laws. And many of the synagogues are within the eruv, a sanctified home boundary that rings Northwest Baltimore and Pikesville, allowing families to push strollers to synagogues, among other things, without violating the Sabbath.
But chief among the drawing cards is the area's good religious schools.
When the Talmudical Academy was founded in 1917, it was the nation's first Hebrew day school established outside of New York City. From its humble origins in a row house in downtown Baltimore, the boys' school has moved to a 10-acre campus on Old Court Road in Baltimore County. As its current enrollment approaches 700, the school is bursting at its seams. An additional floor is being added to the elementary school building. A dormitory houses students from other parts of the United States and Europe.
Baltimore's other Orthodox day schools are also thriving. Bais Yaakov School for Girls celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. Torah Institute and Beth Tfiloh have a growing number of devotees. And the newest school, Yeshivat Rambam, is a year old. Orthodox university-level education is being provided by the Ner Israel Rabbinical College. Founded in 1933, it is the largest American institution for rabbinical training outside New York. (University education also is offered by the more secular Baltimore Hebrew College).
As this community grows, old Orthodox traditions constantly get new applications. A popular Kosher Dining Club draws visitors to its meetings from Philadelphia and Washington. Another newcomer on the organization scene is Girl Scout Troop 182, the first such Orthodox group in Baltimore that anyone can remember.
The Talmudical Academy has been a pioneer in Jewish religious education. In its training guiding thousands of boys to manhood, it has always followed the biblical command: "Educate a child in the way he should go and even when he grows old he will not depart from it."